DEVELOPING: This is a developing story and this article will be edited as more information becomes available.
A statement released through the Kerr County, Texas, Facebook page on Wednesday announced that the Kerr County Animal Shelter would be reducing its hours of operation and would no longer be open on Saturdays. These changes will take effect on Thursday, October 17. Commissioners stated that the hours were being reduced in order to save taxpayer dollars and to “increase public access” to the shelter.
In 2018, the City of Kerrville and Kerr County Commissioners enacted an Interlocal Agreement pertaining to the operations of the Animal Shelter. The county operates the shelter in accordance with state law and in accordance with this Interlocal Agreement with the City of Kerrville. In exchange, the City operates the municipal library for the benefit of city and county residents.
Changes in days and hours of operation
The shelter will now be open for approximately 40 hours per week — down from 47 before the change. However, public access has increased from 39 to 40 hours per week, according to the county’s statement. But, controversially, the shelter will now be closed on Saturdays — another change from the previous schedule.
The new operating hours will be 8 AM to 1 PM and 2 PM to 5 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; and 9 AM to 1 PM and 2 PM to 6 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The county states that these new hours are “accommodating those who work.” Commissioner Letz went on to state that “the adjusted scheduled [sic] will hopefully allow additional time for adoption events and educational activities.”
The county’s press release states that the need to shift the days and hours of operation is to reduce “comp time” accrued by staff. Comp time is shorthand for compensatory time. When an employee works more hours in a given period than their job duties normally entail, the county either pays the employee time-and-a-half overtime, or the employee accrues comp time, which allows the employee to take time off in trade for those extra hours worked.
According to a county official, comp time has a double impact. If paid out in the form of overtime, it negatively impacts the county’s and the department’s budgets. However, if additional leave is granted to “compensate” for those hours, then the facility is left short-handed.
Judge Rob Kelly is quoted as stating, “In effect, we’re reducing our operating costs and saving taxpayer funds, while also increasing public access. It’s a win-win.”
Change in volunteer policies
Another change announced in the statement adjusts the way that volunteers are coordinated and utilized. Starting October 21, volunteers must sign up for specific times in advance, and must visit the shelter “a few days in advance” to fill out liability paperwork. It is unclear at this time whether or not the volunteers must appear each time they wish to volunteer, or just at certain intervals.
This change was made to reduce the county’s vulnerability to liability issues, according to the press release. In the statement, Commissioner Letz is quoted as stating, “In my oversight of the county’s insurance, I came to realize that we need to monitor our volunteer staff more carefully.”
Animal advocates gather in digital spaces such as Facebook groups to discuss the animal shelter, its policies, and to help facilitate the transportation and adoption of the animals. On Wednesday night, reaction to the hours and policy changes was swift and severe.
The majority of the reaction was skeptical of the decision to close the shelter on Saturdays. Many volunteers expressed that Saturdays were the only days of the week when they could volunteer. Others expressed concern that the animals wouldn’t be socialized or taken on walks all weekend, and perhaps for longer stretches on holiday weekends. And others worried that adoptions would decrease since families cannot visit the shelter on weekends any longer. One comment on the Kerr County Animal Services Facebook page stated:
“This is not “increasing public access hours.” It’s the opposite. You’re closing on the most accessible day for the majority of the public.–Facebook comment
Adjust hours on a different weekday. This is not the answer, and it’s back pedaling in the work that’s been done to decrease the euthanization rates.
Saturdays are the days families have time to go look at animals for adoption or missing pets.
Saturdays are when volunteers have time to go out and walk your dogs. There are up to 36 kennels in our county pound. You now want no more than 3 volunteers at a time—scheduled days in advance? And expect all those dogs to get walked (that will be stuck there otherwise, and now for an entire weekend with no human interaction)? And now you’re eliminating a day that works for most volunteers’ schedule?
It seems like the county is discouraging volunteers and moving backwards.”
The new hours are effective on Thursday, October 17. The new volunteer policy will be implemented on October 21.
Kerrville United will soon request statistics for the number of adoptions sorted by days of the week, as well as a log of volunteer hours sorted by days of the week. We hope to add to the discussion by providing data that city and county residents will find useful when approaching this issue. Stand by for more.
Kerr County Commissioners meet on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of each month at 9 AM at the Kerr County Courthouse. Commissioners encourage citizens to attend and speak to matters on the agenda.